Yup, it all went tits up, pear shaped and quite possibly ass-about for starters. And after I had been given conflicting explanations by the several audio experts in out midst, I eventually left it as it is. Or isn’t.
When the Obergruppenfeuhrer gets out on day release, we may have words, but until then, we will perhaps rely on another sound system…
So… what of the jam – it took its time to get going, and we opened with no foldbacks through which we might have appreciated Jeff’s open blow all the more.
Crowd-wise, this was a quieter afternoon than most – and paradoxically, so loud that we managed to empty the other half of the joint rather sooner than usual. Notwithstanding the muddy racket ( and to be fair the Captain got this under control in time, ) the afternoon was the usual mix of the sublime and the ridiculous.
The pearls among the swine had to include Nelson, who when he was allowed to go trio style played his heart out. Laurie, who seems to get mentioned a lot these days, stepped in with a lively rendition of Sugar. Yuko, who waited patiently, then sang a trio of standards for her equally patient friends. Japanese politeness.
Steve, Mr Hirsh, Michael “happysnaps” Findlay and the rather loud André played drums, The Captain, Jeff, Laurie and Alan saxed it up, Fermin and Emi(?) shared the guitar spot, Deborah picked a couple of standards – a version of Lullaby of Birdland so fast it didn’t put anyone to sleep.
How long should each tune last? This came up in conversation – the average duration of a jazz standard generally runs between 4 and 6 minutes. (we measured this at Castlemaine jazz festival, and again one afternoon at the Junk) This leaves plenty of time for everyone to get a go – and runs to 40 tunes each session, which would make things ridiculously easy for the Captain. Of course, if you want to be selfish, egotistical, or both, you can extend the time per tune by any one of the following means.
· Play your instrument, loudly, whilst we are trying to do a sound check. This only works at the beginning of a session, and is incredibly helpful if the crew doing the set up actually feels like listening to you warming up. They don’t.
· Stand around chatting rather than starting the next tune. The audience (and other waiting musos ) absolutely love watching you chat. Amazingly interesting, and uses up a fair bit of time.
· Solos: play one, two, or even three choruses, every opportunity you get. Particularly useful when you just get up any time you feel like. Extra points for playing over the singer, who has been waiting patiently for the last 90 minutes.
· Singers: Bring your entire book of charts up, stand at the microphone, and then start making your mind up about which chart to play. Then hand it out. Slowly. Then give the tempo by waving your hands about, a signal often interpreted by the hapless drummer as “any tempo you like, especially the wrong one” Then miss the 4, 8 16 and 32 bar intro before launching into the actual song.
Why do trios sound so much better?
Rarity value possibly. Actually, smaller ensembles (say drums and bass, singer or soloist, and piano or guitar) invariably sound better for a number of reasons:-
A simpler set up makes it more audible for the other musicians, as well as the audience
Shorter duration – and the consequent quality of solos, either vocal or instrumental.
Less is more – The phrase was originally attributed to Mies Van Der Rohe who, if he ever played an instrument , forgot to mention it.. He was a “minimalist” architect. Just like his buildings, stripping a tune back to the essentials is better than having way too many superfluous things….such as guitars, pianos, notes in a solo, more than one solo instrument at a time, or even an unnecessarily complex sound system.
At present, a typical line-up at the jam session is six or seven people and the record is twelve– way too many for producing good quality music, and often everyone seems to cancel each other out. Of course, the other side of the coin is that everyone has a good blow, and the racket can be appalling but in a fun way.